In Cuba, Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexico, Nicaragua, USA, Venezuela

Delegates meet in Los Angeles as part of preparatory meetings ahead of the Ninth Summit of the Americas. (@SummitAmericas / Twitter)

The decision to to exclude Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua from the upcoming Ninth Summit of the Americas puts the US at odds with much of the region and threatens to undermine the Biden administration’s stated goals of the summit.

By José Luis Granados Ceja

Published on VenezuelaAnalysis, May 3, 2022
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Mexico City, Mexico, May 3, 2022 – The United States (US) unilaterally decided to exclude Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua from the upcoming Ninth Summit of the Americas, US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A. Nichols confirmed Monday.

In an interview with Colombia news channel NTN24, Nichols said that the three countries would be excluded due the US Department of State’s view that they do not abide by the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

The Summit of the Americas brings together the leaders of the countries of North, South, and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS), which serves as the technical secretariat of the meeting. The Ninth Summit is the first being held in the United States since the inaugural one in 1994. The host of the meeting is given purview over what countries are invited to participate.

The US nonetheless faced significant diplomatic pressure to include the presidents of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he personally requested that US President Joe Biden invite all leaders from the hemisphere.

“In the Americas, we cannot maintain the policies of two centuries ago. How is it we call for a Summit of the Americas but we don’t invite everyone?” López Obrador asked rhetorically during a recent press conference.

Both the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which similarly brings together leaders from the region with the deliberate exception of the US and Canada, and the left-of-center Grupo de Puebla issued statements calling on the White House to invite all leaders, including Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

“It is essential that we overcome ideological divisions and focus on the search for points of agreement,” read a statement from CELAC.

As president pro-tempore of CELAC, Mexico received Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as part of the 2021 Summit of Heads of State.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández also recently announced his government’s decision to fully normalize relations with Venezuela and called on all Latin American and Caribbean nations to review their relations with the Maduro government. Argentina currently holds the pro-tempore leadership of CELAC.

Following leftist electoral victories in Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Honduras, and Chile, the Maduro government has begun re-establishing communication with a number of countries that had previously joined US efforts to isolate Caracas. Leaving the Caribbean nation and allies out of the meeting puts the US at odds with most of the countries of the hemisphere and threatens to undermine the Biden administration’s stated goals of the upcoming summit in Los Angeles.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla earlier warned that the US was excluding Cuba from preparations for the summit. Rodríguez said that the US was pushing back against Cuba’s allies in the region who were pressuring Washington to invite all leaders to the regional gathering.

Cuba participated in both the 2018 and 2015 summits, with then President Raúl Castro meeting with then President Barack Obama as part of a broader effort at improved relations between the two countries after decades of US efforts at regime change on the island.

The decision to exclude Cuba is the latest sign of the rightward shift on hemispheric relations by President Biden, who served as vice president when Obama decided to shift policy toward Cuba.

Meanwhile, the exclusion of Venezuela from the upcoming summit comes on the heels of a high-level White House delegation to Caracas where US officials met directly with President Maduro.

The White House trip to Caracas was widely viewed as a de facto admission that the US recognizes Maduro as the rightful leader of Venezuela after a years-long campaign to discredit his democratic mandate, which included the recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaidó as “interim president.”

The March bilateral meeting between Venezuela and the US raised hopes that negotiations would lead to a normalization of relations and potentially an end to US-led unilateral coercive measures. Despite commitments from both the US and Venezuela to continue talks, negotiations appear to have fizzled out following backlash from hardline sectors.

Assistant Secretary Nichols also denied there would be direct talks between US and Venezuelan government officials after The Economist reported that another high-level meeting would take place in Trinidad and Tobago.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone conversation with Guaidó on Monday, where he reiterated that the US still viewed him as president and that US policy toward Venezuela remained unchanged.

Blinken likewise called for talks between the opposition and the Maduro government to resume. Norway-brokered negotiations in Mexico City between the Maduro administration and the US-backed opposition came to a halt last year following Colombo-Venezuelan businessman Alex Saab’s extradition to the United States.

The Venezuelan government maintains that Saab was on a diplomatic mission when he was detained in Cabo Verde and therefore enjoyed diplomatic immunity. US Judge Robert Scola is set to decide whether Alex Saab is a Venezuelan diplomat immune from prosecution. The Venezuelan envoy is facing “conspiracy to launder money” charges.

President Maduro pledged to restart the dialogue process following a first-contact meeting with officials from the US government. However, the Venezuelan government has ruled out direct talks with Guaidó over his alleged links to organized crime groups.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.

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